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It is widely recognized that the next few decades will call for new scientific and technological methods capable of extracting meaningful and useful information from data in ways that will translate into great benefits to society and economy. The age of globalization, the complexity of societal ecosystems and the scale of global challenges require building multidisciplinary and thematic skills, research and transformation processes, rooted in international collaboration. Therefore, an International Joint Research Group on Big Data has been established that brings together researchers from four universities: Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Duke University, Ghent University and University College London. In the context of this network, Robert Calderbank – distinguished professor of computer science, mathematics and electrical and computer engineering at Duke University - will deliver a series of lectures and coordinate joint research activities on big data in Belgium during the first six months of 2018. 

 

Read more and register for the inaugural lecture of Robert Calderbank for the International Francqui Chair ‘Multimodal Data Analytics in the age of Big Data’ on January 18th 2018.  

 

Authors: N. Deligiannis and J. Cornelis

 

The age of Big Data

 

It is widely recognized – in this era of data deluge where sensors, cameras, computers and smart phones capture and store an unending torrent of data about human activity – that the next few decades will call for new scientific and technological methods capable of extracting meaningful and useful information from data in ways that will translate into great benefits to society and economy.   The need to manage and harness big data now crosses into all areas of society:

 

Arts & Humanities: Synthesis of digital texts, photos, historical accounts of battles or natural disasters and other disparate data sources can create a new understanding of history and support policy decisions.

 

Social Sciences: The ability to ask increasingly complex questions about massive data sets offers an opportunity to active data analysis; a paradigm that may have implications in the way service economy runs on personal information.

 

Medical and Life Sciences: The ability to study multiple sources of data also offers an opportunity to achieve new scientific discoveries, e.g. brain scans, questionnaire data and sensor-harvested data can be leveraged to improve diagnosis and treatment.

 

Big data, which is heterogeneous and multimodal in nature, overwhelms traditional software and is complicated to capture, curate, manage and process in reasonable periods of time. Machine learning, information theory, signal processing, and statistics are becoming increasingly important scientific fields to tackle big data challenges, and the emerging field of deep learning is receiving tremendous attention from the scientific and industrial communities.

 

In response to these challenges and opportunities, an International Joint Research Group on Big Data has been established. It functions as an internationally engaged education, research and innovation network, centered on big data technologies that brings together researchers from Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Duke University, Ghent University and University College London. In the context of this network, Robert Calderbank – distinguished professor of computer science, mathematics and electrical and computer engineering at Duke University and director of the Information Initiative at Duke (iiD) program – will deliver a series of lectures and coordinate joint research activities on big data in Belgium from January to June 2018, supported by the 2017-2018 International Francqui Chair. 

 

Read here more about this lecture.

 

An eminent scientist with impact on technology and society

 

Prof. Calderbank has made decisive contributions that have shaped modern digital communications. At the start of his career at Bell Labs, Prof. Calderbank invented voiceband modem technology that was widely licensed and incorporated in over a billion devices. Voiceband means that the signals are audible so these modems burped and squeaked as they connected to the internet. One of these products was the AT&T COMSPHERE® modem which was the fastest modem in the world in 1994 – at 33.6kb/s.

 

Furthermore, together with Peter Shor and colleagues at AT&T Labs, Prof. Calderbank developed the group theoretic framework for quantum error correction. This framework changed the way physicists view quantum entanglement, and provided the foundation for fault tolerant quantum computation. Large-scale quantum computers, still in the initial stages of development, are theoretically able to solve certain problems faster than any classical computer.

 

Prof. Calderbank has also developed technology that improves the speed and reliability of wireless communication by correlating signals across several transmit antennas. This space-time coding technology, invented in 1996, has been incorporated in a broad range of 3G, 4G and 5G wireless standards.

 

Prof. Calderbank’s role on industrial innovation is also unique. He served on the Technical Advisory Board of Flarion Technologies, a wireless infrastructure company founded by Rajiv Laroia and acquired by Qualcomm for $1B in 2008.

 

Most of all, Prof. Calderbank is a passionate educator. He has started iiD, the campus-wide interdisciplinary Information Initiative at Duke, to develop a new generation of graduates prepared to lead in a world that is being transformed by the availability of massive amounts of data within all disciplinary domains. He transformed undergraduate education through programs such as Data+, where teams of undergraduates, mentored by graduate students or postdoctoral fellows, deliver research products to an external client.

 

An example of social responsibility is his recruitment policy when he took up the coordination for research and teaching by 250 faculty in 8 departments. He recruited 27 faculty including 18 women and under-represented minorities, tripling the number of women Chemistry faculty.

 

The context of Prof. Calderbank’s Francqui Chair

 

Robert Calderbank will deliver a series of lectures and will coordinate big data research activities in Belgium during the first six months of 2018, collaborating with a team of academics, including, Nikos Deligiannis and Jan Cornelis (VUB, promoters of the Chair), Aleksandra Pizurica and Marc Moeneclaey (UGent), Laurent Jacques and Luc Vandendorpe (UCL), Christine De Mol (ULB), and Marc Moonen (KUL).

 

Robert Calderbank’s lectures span a wide range of topics: In the inaugural lecture (on January 18), he will review Shannon’s contributions and will present future directions for groundbreaking research in information theory and machine learning. In the lecture at VUB (on February 18), he will present recent developments in quantum computing, whereas in the lecture at UGent (on March 1), he will focus on signal acquisition via low-dimensional measurements.  In the lecture at UCL (on March 22), he will focus on the intersection between coding theory and active sensing; in the lecture at KUL (on April 27) the latest developments in wireless communications, with the advent of 5G technology, will be highlighted; the subject of the lecture at ULB (on May 3) is revolutionary computer architectures for data storage.

 

The Chair also organizes a one-day workshop at VUB (on May 3), during which Prof. Calderbank and other internationally leading experts will present the latest advances in data science.

 

Prof. Calderbank will also interact with researchers at VUB, UGent, UCL, ULB, and KUL on various research topics ranging from fundamental problems in digital communications, information theory and coding to their synergy with compressed sensing and deep learning theory. Particular interest will be devoted to the application of sparsity and convex optimization in signal processing and imaging, as well as in learning theory. Such theories are expected to fuel various application domains, ranging from imaging (e.g., Magnetic Resonance Imaging, hyperspectral imaging, GHz and THz imaging, holography) to big data problems (such as recommender systems and social media data analysis) and image processing applications for art investigation.

 

Closing remark

 

It is evident that the age of globalization, the complexity of societal ecosystems and the scale of global challenges require building multidisciplinary and thematic skills, research and transformation processes, rooted in international collaboration. We are convinced that the International Francqui Chair of Prof. Calderbank will yield pertinent contributions to this.

 

Lectures

 

- Remembering Shannon (January 18)
- Recent Developments in Quantum Computing (February 15)
- Enchancing Resolution in Undersampled Physical Imaging (March 1)
- Golay, Heisdenberg and Weyl (March 22)
- 5G Wireless (April 16)
- Coding Theory and Computer Architecture (May 3)
- Data+ (May 18)

 

Read more and register for the lectures of international Francqui Chair ‘Multimodal Data Analytics in the age of Big Data’.